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One of the most acclaimed "science fantasies" ever, Gene Wolfe's The Book of the New Sun is a long, magical novel in four volumes. Shadow & Claw contains the first two: The Shadow of the Torturer and The Claw of the Conciliator, which respectively won the World Fantasy and Nebula Awards.
This is the first-person narrative of Severian, a lowly apprentice torturer blessed and cursed with a photographic memory, whose travels lead him through the marvels of far-future Urth, and who--as revealed near the beginning--eventually becomes his land's sole ruler or Autarch. On the surface it's a colorful story with all the classic ingredients: growing up, adventure, sex, betrayal, murder, exile, battle, monsters, and mysteries to be solved. (Only well into book 2 do we realize what saved Severian's life in chapter 1.) For lovers of literary allusions, they are plenty here: a Dickensian cemetery scene, a torture-engine from Kafka, a wonderful library out of Borges, and familiar fables changed by eons of retelling. Wolfe evokes a chilly sense of time's vastness, with an age-old, much-restored painting of a golden-visored "knight," really an astronaut standing on the moon, and an ancient citadel of metal towers, actually grounded spacecraft. Even the sun is senile and dying, and so Urth needs a new sun.
The Book of the New Sun is almost heartbreakingly good, full of riches and subtleties that improve with each rereading. It is Gene Wolfe's masterpiece. --David Langford, Amazon.co.uk
The Book of the New Sun establishes [Wolfe's] pre-eminence, pure and simple....The Book of the New Sun contains elements of Spenserian allegory, Swiftian satire, Dickensian social consciousness and Wagnerian mythology. Wolfe creates a truly alien social order that the reader comes to experience from within...once into it, there is no stopping. (The New York Times Book Review)
Magic stuff...a masterpiece...the best science fiction I've read in years! (Ursula K. Le Guin)
Arguably the best piece of literature American science fiction has yet produced. (Chicago Sun-Times)
Overall, it's alright. Certainly not a page turner. It takes a looooooong time to get into. I honestly had to force myself to read the whole thing and it took over a year to do... Read morePublished 1 month ago by Mozen
Not for the faint of heart, Gene Wolfe will challenge the reader and reward the effort with an amazing series that has stayed with me for thirty years. Must Reread again and again.Published 2 months ago by b3ar
Right off the bat I found it hard to get into the story. Didn't seem to have any kind of flow.Published on Jan. 20 2013 by rancher
I don't have any credentials whatsoever - I don't have a degree, so this is going to be a plain-jane working man's review. Read morePublished on Sept. 10 2008 by Andy
I purchased this book as a recommendation from a friend who enjoys the same genre of novels as I do. His initial description of this book was deceptive, however. Read morePublished on Sept. 8 2008 by A. Ferland
I'm usually not too hip on the sci-fi/fantasy stuff, but this book is different. Great characters, and plenty of twists and turns. Read morePublished on June 24 2004 by igor goldring
This is the greatest, most intelligent modern work of fiction I have ever read. I dont profess that is necessarily benevolant, but it is what it is, and deserves recognition. Read morePublished on June 8 2004 by Eric Belcastro
I find it astounding that some reviewers think that those who didn't like this book have no imagination. Read morePublished on May 20 2004
Are people losing their imaginations...do they need an obvious resolution for everything? To be spoonfed? Do they need the thinking to be done for them? Read morePublished on May 7 2004 by Jeremy Plante